(Read this first to get the whole story)
Brian at Chicago Antiques Guide was immensely helpful in connecting us with a reputable gallery for our two items. I sent him very specific information about the Prestini bowl and the Alferez maquette, including digital photos from many angles, measurements and weight. (Accurate detail is important when asking for an estimate or referral. A lesson I learned all too well when I gave him the wrong measurements for the Prestini bowl. The estimate was 50% with the corrected size. Ah well.)
The gallery reviewed the photos and indicated an interest in accepting the items in an upcoming auction. So, I set to find out a little more about the auctioneer, John Toomey Galleries of Oak Park, Illinois.
John Toomey works with the Treadway Gallery of Cincinnati to present a number of major auctions a year. They specialize in 20th Century Decorative Arts (so, all of you Arts & Crafts lovers out there...take note!)
Aaron and I were hesitant about putting the pieces up for auction, even with the awesome pedigree of Treadway/Toomey. We had toyed with the idea of keeping the pieces for a long time...we had never owned something so beautiful and rare. (And probably won't again.) So, it was a tough decision to let them go. I kept thinking, "How would we ever keep these safe and intact?!" It's an awesome obligation to own something like this and I kept imagining them either falling to the floor in a million pieces or packed away in a box forever. Neither scenario was comforting.
We would have to hurry to get the pieces to the Gallery in time for the 20th Century Decorative Arts Auction on May 7th. The items would need to be inspected and photographed for the catalog. Looking at samples of other items already in the auction, we were suitably impressed!
Stickley, Handel, Baumann, Teco, Mougin, Nelson, Tiffany, Grueby...oh my!
I called to find out how I should get the items to the Gallery. I left a message for Lisanne Dickson, their expert in Modern Design and my contact. Unfortunately, she had the flu! But, what a trooper. She left a nice message with instructions on what to do with the pieces, even though she was out. This impressed me no end, since she was obviously extremely busy and I can't even think of picking up the phone when I am suffering from the flu.
I bundled Grace into the car and we headed to Oak Park. The front door of the Gallery was locked but I could see through the glass that there was a lot of activity in the back. I walked around.
The back entry doors were open to staff members carrying all kinds of treasures into the gallery. Lamps, paintings, furniture. Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Modern. Anne Dickenson (the patient staff member who had answered my questions over the phone) greeted me and went to find someone who could help with the pieces. Jane Browne helped to write up the contract and explain the terms to me. Everyone was so pleasant and efficient, even in the midst of an extremely busy afternoon. From what I could gather, there was much more to this type of auction than displaying the items and taking the bids! There was a photoshoot in progress of items for the catalog that will be available for potential buyers. The items had to be unpacked and sorted out and inspected and researched. A plan for display had to be devised. Stacks of paperwork to be dealt with. Insurance. Logistics and transportation. Advertising. Mailing lists. I'm sure there is even more behind the scenes work that I don't know about!
Because our items were appraised above $1000 each, the terms of the sale were set at 15% plus 1.5% for insurance. I took a deep breath, signed the contract, and left the Alferez and Prestini in their hands.
More updates soon!